The Year of Goodbyes: A true story of friendship, family, and farewells

 
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The Year of Goodbyes: A true story of friendship, family, and farewells
Author(s)
Publisher
Age Range
10+
Release Date
March 16, 2010
ISBN
1423129016
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This book tells the true story of what happened to a 12-year-old girl named Jutta (Debbie Levy’s mother) in 1938. Actual entries in a posiealbum (autograph book) serve as stepping stones in a crucial year in history, when people of Jewish ancestry in Germany and Austria were systematically stripped of their rights, subjected to violence, and arrested without cause. Jutta was one of the lucky ones who escaped to America before the rising tide of violence erupted into World War II and the tragedy of the Holocaust. Remembrances from Jutta's friends and relatives introduce chapters, written in verse form, that describe her experiences—many of them typical of any teenager anywhere—and report some of the history of the era. Debbie wrote these verses in consultation with her mother to reflect her voice, feelings, and thoughts as she was living through this memorable year. The book also includes excerpts from Jutta’s diary. Together the poesie writings, verses and diary entries reflect a year of change and chance, confusion and cruelty. Most of all, they describe a year of goodbyes.

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Saying Goodbye to a Former Life
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)  
 
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Reader reviewed by Julie M. Prince

The Year of Goodbyes by Debbie Levy gives us a glimpse of pre-WWII Germany through the eyes of 12-year-old Jutta. The Nazis are making Juttas normal life in Hamburg miserable with all of the new rules theyre imposing on Jews. Her father has even had to close up his business because he, as a Jew, isnt good enough to run it. His full-time job has become finding a way for his family to flee their home and get to the distant U.S. to stay with relatives that Juttas never even met.

In an effort to maintain some sense of normalcy, Jutta and her friends keep posiealbums (poetry albums) in which they share words of wisdom and remembrance.

Juttas album from the year she left home is featured in this fantastic book, along with some of her diary entries. Juttas own daughter, author Debbie Levy, does a brilliant job of narrating through the story and keeping the significant parts from becoming buried in this wealth of a walk down memory lane.

Aside from reading the entries by various Jewish friends and relatives, I found the recorded thoughts about what was happening around Jutta to be most interesting--the way the fears grew from tiny seeds of discontent to huge, tangled weeds of desperation.

Escape from Germany was necessary to live, but difficult to achieve, and the story of Jutta's family is a heartwrenching and triumphant one. Bittersweet and poignant. The author does it justice.
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